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Newsletters > May 2011 > “Social Entrepreneurship – it pays off!” - PEOPLE International Conference in Cracow
The 4th International PEOPLE Conference on 9th March in Cracow was hosted by the Malopolska Region and was entirely dedicated to PEOPLE’s sub-objective 5, i.e. social entrepreneurship.

Participants including several Polish and international experts were greeted by Mr. Roman Ciepiela, the Vice-Marshal of the Malopolska Region, who emphasised the significance of debate on the issue and suggested topics and reflections for discussion. What are the benefits and economical effects of social entrepreneurship? In what way can elderly people, the disabled, and the marginalised benefit from the sector? What legal regulations are required?

Mr. Ciepiela remarked; “the problems faced by European countries with respect to aging society, social exclusion, and ensuring adequate healthcare are similar, but the policies developed may differ. That is why, it is so important to bring experts and practitioners together to compare the solutions, share good practices, and work out common recommendations”.

During the opening session, the PEOPLE project was presented from an international point of view, as well as from the perspective of the Malopolska Region. Ms. Ana Gómez Pérez of the Andalusia regional government outlined the international picture. She also indicated that the problem of social exclusion should not only be dealt with by the public authorities that support the promotion social entrepreneurship, but also by the whole society through grassroots initiatives and NGOs.

Subsequently, Mr. Jacek Woźniak, of the Marshal Office of the Malopolska Region, presented the project's role in Malopolska, and its position in the system of national and regional strategic documents. The presentation outlined three contexts relevant to the discussed topic. First, the European background including EU objectives and social background reflected by GDP growth, unemployment rates, and adult education. Second, the Malopolska Region Development Strategy with its goals and fields of action, including “Entrepreneurship promotion” and “Enhancing vocational training and employment”. The third context is the problem of an aging society in Malopolska. In this area, Mr. Woźniak outlined actions taken by the region so far, as well as further steps planned.

After the public sector representatives, it was the turn of academics and experts to take the floor. First, Polish experts, Anna Karwińska, Ph.D. and Jacek Kwiatkowski, discussed the role of social entrepreneurship institutions in the well-functioning society and the sector's role in satisfying citizens' needs. Consequently, international experts were asked to present their views and provide brief definitions of social entrepreneurship, as understood in their fields.

The second session focused on legal aspects of social entrepreneurship. Experts from PEOPLE's Partner Regions presented regulations implemented in their countries. Anna Sienicka, who takes an active part in drafting the Polish act on social entrepreneurship, discussed current and planned regulations in Poland. Interesting reflections on other countries' experiences were voiced by Barbara Beaton (South-East England), Gief van Schijndel and Ella Buijze (Noord-Brabant), and Isabel Ferrero Muñoz (Andalusia).

The final session, facilitated by Conroy Williams of the Hampshire Schools of Social Entrepreneurs, was devoted to hands-on experience of social entrepreneurship. Presentation of the CIBUS5 sub-project delivered by Swedish, English, and Spanish partners was followed by three speeches on the selected PEOPLE's Good Practices from Stockholm, South-East England and Venice.

Thus, the intensive programme came to an end, even if more disputants were willing to express their opinions in the concluding debate, and some of the experts were prepared to give much longer speeches. All in all, the event provided an in-depth view of conditions, needs and barriers of social entrepreneurship in the partner regions. A number of interesting theoretical reflections were coupled with voices of practitioners, which altogether provided a comprehensive picture of the issue.

However, unavoidably, several questions remained open, thus leaving a broad area for further efforts and debates. Participants left the venue inspired with ideas sparked from the presentations and discussions and debates during the conference. As some of them pointed out, the event was thought-provoking and could constitute a starting point of a broader social and political debate. Undoubtedly, the exchange of experiences and bringing together representatives of public authorities, business, and academics is a way to promote changes in legislation and attitudes to ensure successful social enterprises.